Labor Pains

“Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.” (Galatians 4:19 NLT)

Apostle Paul writes to remind us that spiritual formation hurts. It hurts for the pastor, it hurts for the one being formed and it certainly must hurt the heart of God to watch His children squirm in discomfort. But labor pains and growing pains are worth the weight they produce: new life! Spiritual transformation! Sanctification!

How does a mother-to-be deal with the heavy ache of labor? She focuses all her energies on the precious baby she is pushing into the world. How do the pastor, the believer, and the Lord bear the pain of spiritual formation? Again, putting all priority on the end result: an increase in the Kingdom. 

Apostle Paul promotes and maintains this concentration throughout his ministry:

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” (Philippians 3:12 NLT)

It’s safe to say that Jesus takes hold of us with a plan to perfect us. His Kingdom is without flaw and He has invited us to be a part of it forever so sanctification is a necessary means to that end. Plus, it’s exciting to see growth burst forth from our lives, to look back and realize that we aren’t the same person we were a year ago, and even unrecognizable in a decade or two. Spiritual transformation is hard evidence to the unbelieving world that Jesus is gaining ground in us.

I look at my babies (now almost fourteen and seventeen) and I can barely recall the once very real pain of bringing them into this world. I suspect this is how sanctification will feel for us in the rear view mirror, as we cross the threshold from this life to the next. The birthing pains of being made like Him will prove more than worth the end result. Until then, we keep growing.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6 NLT)

Lord, thank You for all You have endured with the goal of bringing us into Your Kingdom. We recognize that though our spiritual formation hurts, You have already bore the brunt of it. Please help us to keep the end goal in mind: being made more like You. Let us labor well as we cooperate with Your perfect Kingdom birth plan. Amen.